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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 11:26 GMT
Fathers 4 Justice in Scotland
Batman stunt at Buckingham Palace
Two men dressed as Santas have staged a demonstration at the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood to highlight fathers' rights.

They carried out the stunt on the day that Fathers 4 Justice hold their first public meeting in Scotland.

The group says it organised the meeting in Stirling in response to many calls for help.

What do you think of Fathers 4 Justice's tactics? Do you think the Scottish legal system is fair to all sides involved in child custody disputes? What changes, if any, should be made to the system?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

There is only one word to describe this kind of behaviour: "pathetic". The fathers that do this obviously do not care about the best interest of their children. My child's father is a member of F4J. He has not bothered trying to contact her for the last nine months and there he is telling everyone what a wonderful father he is and how much he misses her etc. What people fail to realise is that he is a alcoholic and she is truly petrified of him. Us as mothers need to protect our children and if that means denying access for the best interest of our children then so be it. I do feel sorry for the fathers that are genuine and I agree this needs to be sorted out but not in the form of embarrassing their own children with publicity stunts.
Susan , Inverness

No-one supports violence against their respective partners or children, whether it be from the father or mother. This is not what F4J is saying. This is about contact with their children - many decent, loving and caring fathers are being denied access to their children, not from the law, but from the implementation of that law by sheriffs, who will in the vast majority of cases order that that the mother will be the parent with care and the father the non-resident parent. Where there are disputes in the divorce it is not uncommon for the fathers rights to see the children, even with a court order, to be refused by the parent with care and to use this as a bargaining tool in the divorce. F4J are making peaceful protests to raise the awareness of the failures in the decisions made by sheriffs and family courts. I find it absurd that people should object to this type of peaceful protest - change will only happen when the politicians feel uncomfortable in their denial of this problem.
Douglas, Glasgow

As with any petulant children, ignore them and they'll soon give up.
Gavin Smith, Inverness, UK

Good for them! God forbid I ever end up in the situation of not being partnered to my children's mother but I strongly sympathise with their position. And as for all those people saying it shows they are not fit to have to access to their kids, shame on you. I hope all the children of these guys love them even more for it - mine would - it's what Dads are good at.
Matt Taylor, Edinburgh

I can fully understand how desperate these men feel, I had to leave because I couldn't stand the madness of being some kind of glorified babysitter to my own children and having to pay for the privilege. My transsexual status and the law leaning towards the mother where all used and abused to make things worse. I personally am more than capable of wearing a silly suit and chaining myself to a building somewhere, I hope these people get what they seek for I fear I never will.
Karen Sweeney, London UK

Fathers for justice seeks equality in childcare after divorce, whilst the majority of them are unwilling to share out the burden/joy of childcare while in a marriage. Although I can see the need for fathers to have easier access to their children, I think they should first consider the gender-biased roles in married couples before bleating on about a change of mind post separation.
Cordelia, Durham, UK

The fact of the matter is that if you are a father and your relationship breaks up, your chance of maintaining any contact with your children is very low. The courts do not care about you and even if they give you a contact order they won't enforce it. But all the indicators show that children do better when they have an on-going relationship with both parents. We need the system to reflect this, and give children what they deserve. Unfortunately there are so many vested interests that it is going to take more protests like today's to get people to wake up to this simple reality.
Martin Crapper, Edinburgh

Like many other fathers who go through the turmoil of divorce I fully understand the desperation of these protesters who have been let down in a shameful way through no fault of their own but by the abject disparity and inequality of the present justice system. More often than not this unjust and prejudicial system is used against fathers like myself for both emotional blackmail and financial gain with the interests of the children being secondary - the only "winners" in this game of vitriol being the parasitic lawyers with children being the pawns.
Anon, Motherwell

First of all, well done F4J: the argument that they should go back home and concentrate on "being good fathers" is not only insulting but typically British in as much as nothing would therefore get done. Secondly, there is a deeper precedent being set here; the right to protest like this. If you think of the climate we live in now, the fact that these guys are one of the few to engage in peaceful, comically non-violent protest is important. I remember when the first guy got onto Buckingham Palace, and the media cried "Shoot Him! What if he had been Al-Qaeda?" This filters our perception of any type of protest into the same thing and in so doing wipes out our ability to protest at all. Remember when Tony Blair tried to denounce the Seattle protesters as something like "stupid students"? It seems like any sort of protest these days makes you a wacko or a terrorist, and that's a fine mess to have got ourselves into. All power to Fathers 4 Justice
Gareth, London

I'm guessing that the children of these particular protesters are cringing with embarrassment right now, not applauding their actions.
Jan, Edinburgh, Scotland

The reality is that if most men are prevented from seeing their kids it's because of violence or abuse perpetrated by them either against their former partner or the kids themselves. The Fathers for Justice won't be taken seriously until they face the main problem - which is male violence and power. Unfortunately I see very little evidence of them being interested in this at all. If they started a campaign against male violence I'd take them more seriously.
Dr Douglas Chalmers, Glasgow, Scotland

Re. remarks by Dr Chalmers of Glasgow. Contrary to his assertion, I know from bitter experience that contact can be withheld by mothers on false allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. These claims were investigated each and every time and proved to be false. Did the courts do anything about mother making knowingly false allegations? NO. Did the police do anything about the wasted time? NO. Was I able to reclaim legal expense in pursuing contact when it was withheld? NO. Dr Chalmers' remarks, while noble and worthy, do not reflect reality.
Alan, Edinburgh

As an ex-family law solicitor I can confirm that the family legal system across the UK is bias in favour of mothers as primary carers. The law however is written in gender-neutral terms. So the legal presumption demanded by fathers' campaigners is in my mind a just and proper cause. The stunts are questionable, but in my view, are the end result of 30 years of being reasonable, where reason has been ignored. Other less activist groups like Families Need Fathers (FNF) and Equal Parenting Coalition have been having conversations with successive governments to try and ensure that fatherhood is preserved in this country. I have seen no change in any policies or legislation that helps ensure a child is afforded the love and care of both parents after parental separation or divorce. Those who complain about ┐feckless┐ dads, who pay no CSA and abandon their children, should ask themselves why such a situation exists. A starting position of equality for the best interest of the child to be met. Every case is always judged on its individual basis, and any true concerns about violence or child safety will still be addressed, but from a standpoint that both parent! s have equal say, and equal footing until something is proven. I hate to say this, but carry on your crazy stunts F4J, because you are making it highly uncomfortable for the authorities and this is the only way to get any movement in a system that has not budged an inch in over 30 years of sensible lobbying and debate. Only stop when change has happened, not when it is promised.
Lynda, Edinburgh

Clowns, Ok so you have a point to make, just like every other organisation or charity who does exceptionally good work. But rather than make it sensibly you disrupt the everyday life of others. These publicity stunts are no longer getting the point across, the point is lost amid the latest goofball outfit and high profile target. Its now more likely to get you on as a z-list celebrity on 'get me out of here' or as a guest on GMTV. Wannabe celebs for undeserved fame and fortune more like. As I already said, clowns.
Olivar Mival, Edinburgh

Yes Olivar, I'm sure that they would love to take their children to see the 'clowns' but unfortunately they can't. What is stopping them is a very biased outdated system that is in serious need for change. I'm sure it makes divorce all the more difficult knowing that there is no God given right to see your children in the near future.
Derek, Falkirk

I have five very good friends that have been through divorces over the last five years. All they want is equality of access to their kids and as far as I can see the present system does not allow for this. Up to now no one has listened. Maybe this kind of publicity will at least have their views heard.
Alan Collin, Carluke

They do their cause no favours whatsoever and their actions merely serve to demonstrate why they shouldn't be near kids in the first place. And the media has a responsibility to stop giving these louts so much coverage. Why is that it is those who shout the loudest who get publicity, rather than those truly deserving of it?
Simon, Edinburgh

These fathers are doing what has to be done. The law as it stands is a farce, it rewards and serves the best interests of the parent with care of the children, not the best interests of the child. It's high time that more was done in Scotland to raise the profile of children and their fathers who are kept apart and have their relationships ruined by bitter, twisted or thwarted women with the full connivance of the courts - either implicit or explicit. As for previous remarks about Edinburgh and council tax... you don't like, move somewhere else!!
Alan, Edinburgh

It doesn't matter where it is in the UK, fathers are being discriminated against. These are the actions of desperate men and it is about time they were taken seriously before they kill either themselves or somebody else. There is enough talk about absent fathers and their need to support their children. What about their rights to access. How many men stay in worthless relationships having their lives made a misery just so that they can see their kids grow up. As a mother it's a very easy game to play especially if the legal system gives you all the cards you need.
Tim, Bradford West Yorkshire

"The government is more interested in... foxes than dads.'' Bob Geldof says it all.
J Simpson, Tillicoultry

Excellent. Well done Fathers 4 Justice, you have brought a most worthy cause to Scotland and about time too. It is a disgrace what is done in the Family Sheriffs Courts in Scotland, in the name of the children's best interest. For far too long has this horrendous situation existed across the UK and Scotland is one of the worse cases for abusing fathers when it comes to contact and residency applications. I lost contact with my children based on lies and deceit in the Family Courts and because I was an unsuccessful applicant, I had to pay costs for the privilege of being told I am not needed in my child's life. Surplus to requirements, a disposable asset. Children need both good parents and this automatic and unwritten right, which mothers have to control and dictate how a father participates in a child's upbringing, is a disgrace. Fathers are legally bound to pay for their offspring, but have no right (legally) to see or care for them as a parent. Only the right to apply to the courts for contact, which in many cases is not given due to mothers' opposition. It's a lie to state that courts are bending over to give dads contact, they are not, and in many cases give indirect contact (cards and letters permitted), which is not parenting a child. This has to stop, for the sake of our children. Point me to a crane; I'll be there in my Spiderman suit.
Darren, Glasgow

Statistically, there are many more women waiting in vain for the absent fathers of their children to contribute financially to the cost of their upbringing. So why don't we see Mothers 4 Justice campaigners dressed as Wonder Woman chained to the Forth Rail Bridge? Because they're too busy thanklessly trying to hold down a job and look after their kids with no help from their former (often abusive) partners - that's why.
Martin, Glasgow

It's only a matter of time before one of these protesters gets killed or seriously injured through one of these so called stunts. I'm all for standing up for your rights, but there must be a better way of going about it.
Jude, Scotland

So, on top of the new parliament costing me a fortune, a group of juvenile men in Santa suits have decided to use up valuable security resources to stand on the Scottish Parliament and protest about their right to see their children. If you want to convince people you should have greater access to your kids, how about behaving like a responsible adult? That would impress me more. The people of Edinburgh can't keep paying increasing council tax to pay for the policemen that will have to attend the parliament for the likes of this. Can someone please check they have no weapons on them and then just leave them there?
Debbie, Edinburgh

"First, walk a mile in my shoes..." Although I have good access to my child my heart goes out to fathers who can't see their children as of right. It seems that women's lib and PC-ness has gone too far and if this is the only way fathers can get justice, then we should all support their actions. Perhaps a letter to Dame Elizabeth Butler-Schloss (head of the Families Division Courts in England) might help her realise the error of her and her colleagues' decisions. I know my daughter would be devastated if she didn't have access to me (and her mother). But then her mother and I didn't go to court - believing instead that we could handle things ourselves. We were right. But we were fortunate, too.
John, Bradford,

People don't protest as much as they used to any more, which is a bad thing. I am all for people protesting for things they believe in.
Christopher O'Neil, Edinburgh

'Santas' mount parliament protest
30 Nov 04 |  Scotland


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